Sand Lake Recreation Area: An outdoor enthusiast’s Mecca Skip to content

Tillamook Coast Life Blog

Sand Lake Recreation Area: An outdoor enthusiast’s Mecca

While many visitors to the Tillamook area are racing between Cape Kiwanda and Cape Lookout, the outdoor enthusiast Mecca that is the Sand Lake Recreation Area provides perhaps an even wider array of opportunities than either of the capes that sandwich it. The 1,000-plus acres of sand dunes, lakes, and estuary that comprise Sand Lake make for an ideal spot to hike, swim, fish, kayak, view wildlife, go crabbing, and more; including off-trail vehicles use.

Sand Lake dunes
Tackle Sand Lake’s imposing dunes on an ATV or motorcycle.

In a best of both worlds-like scenario, the Sand Lake Recreation Area is simultaneously home to man-powered, as well as gas-powered outdoor enjoyment. Interspersed with the occasional oasis of vegetation and patches of forest, Sand Lakes is a prime spot to tackle imposing dunes or speed along majestic coastline via ATV or motorcycle. Sure the views of iconic Haystack Rock are inspiring, but it’s the dunes that make this place particularly special from both a geological and recreational perspective.

The result of millions of years of wind and rain erosion, sand dunes like these are a unique feature along the Northwest coastline. And even rarer, opportunities to explore them on an off-trail vehicle; easily one of the more fun ways to do so. Of the handful of areas like it, Sand Lake is THE spot on the north Oregon coast.

There are also campgrounds around the recreation area that afford instant access to the dunes as well as drinking water, picnic tables, and restrooms. During the summer months reservations can be made at the Sandbeach Campground, while East Dunes and West Winds are first come first served. And if you don’t have your own vehicle, Sandlake Tsunami ATV Rental has you covered.

Permits are required for OHV use. Before you go, make sure you check into the rules and regulations applicable. For more information on all things Sand Lake, including camping, visit the Siuslaw National Forest Sand Lake Recreational Area webpage.

A Picture of Adam Sawyer
Adam Sawyer
Adam Sawyer is an outdoor and travel writer, photographer, and published guidebook author based out of Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Northwest Travel, Portland Monthly, Columbia River Gorge, Central Oregon, and Backpacker Magazines. He currently pens articles as the Portland Hiking Examiner for and authored the bi-weekly column Portland Family Outdoors for Craigmore Creations. He was the co-host of the KEEN HybridLife Radio Show for its duration and now serves as a Brand Ambassador for the company. In addition to “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon” he is the author of the forthcoming "Best Adventures Near Portland," and the co-author of "Hiking Waterfalls in Washington," all for Falcon Guides. Adam is also a “Resident Expert” for Portland Walking Tours and leads a variety of tours through the streets of Portland, including the company’s popular Epicurean Excursion. Follow him at: